Bebo has reportedly signed an exclusive UK deal with Orange that will place the youth-oriented social network on mobile handsets from the summer.

Orange customers will get to edit profiles, message friends and write blog posts, although exclusivity will last for a limited time before Bebo makes the service available to other networks.

“The mobile phone is the ‘missing link’ for social networking,” said Bebo president Joanna Shields, with many anticipating the phenomenon du jour to really take off once the experience can be effectively delivered to mobile devices.

The Times reports O2 had been negotiating the Bebo deal but Orange had clinched the link for its 15.3m subscribers. Similar partnerships are expected to be rolled out around Europe later.

Rival MySpace in February inked an exclusive UK hook-up with Vodafone to carry its social networking features on the world-leading network.

But Bebo began to overtake News Corp’s site in the UK last year and boasts a younger demographic that may make greater use of the mobile version.